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Who’s at Risk?

The CDC found that 47% of adults over 30 have periodontitis. After age 65, that number goes up to 70%.

You may be more likely to get gum disease if you:

  • Use tobacco products
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a family history of gum disease
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high stress
  • Grind or clench your teeth

Some birth control, antidepressants, and heart medications may raise your risk of gum disease. Tell your dentist about any medications you take regularly.

For the best oral health, Ryder suggests you work to manage your risk factors. “Look at things that would make you more susceptible to gum disease,” he says. “Stop smoking, manage diabetes correctly, and if you’re pregnant, think about visiting the dentist more often during your pregnancy.”

How to Treat Gum Disease

Your dentist will remove the root cause of the problem -- plaque on your teeth.

“The dentist would clean around all the affected areas, and really go down to the bottom of the pocket of the tooth, because that’s where the most harmful bacteria is,” Ryder says. This deep-cleaning process is called scaling.

The dentist will also look at other causes of plaque, like loose fillings or crowns. He may take X-rays to check for bone loss. If the disease is severe, or doesn’t get better over time, you might need surgery. You might be referred to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in gum disease.

Tips to Manage Gum Disease

Like most health problems, prevention is key when it comes to battling gum disease. To prevent plaque buildup and keep gum disease at bay you should:

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
  • Clean between the teeth, with floss or another interdental cleaning tool.
  • Swish twice daily with antiseptic mouth rinse.
  • See your dentist regularly.

Ryder says that how often you see the dentist might soon depend on your personal risk factors.

“There is a lot of research being done now to see who might be more susceptible to gum breakdown,” he says. “What we find out about a person’s bacteria, or family history, for example, would help establish their treatment plan.”